Understanding Working-Class Lives Through the Edwardian Book Inscriptio
Book inscriptions are often relegated to the status of insignificant markers of ownership. However, they are much more than that. Book inscriptions are rich examples of multimodal vernacular writing that offer valuable evidence of the relationship that people have with their books. When supported by archival research, book inscriptions can provide first-hand accounts of identity performance, social hierarchization, power relations, and political and cultural socialisation. This is particularly the case for Edwardian (1901-1914) book inscriptions, given that the period was one marked by increasing class conflict.
This workshop proposes to demonstrate how the book inscription can be used to explore the lives of working-class individuals in Edwardian Britain. It is based on a number of recent workshops delivered to undergraduates at Cardiff University undertaking a module in Visual Communication. The workshop will introduce participants to a selection of Edwardian books and show how a combination of physical examination and digital tools can be used to explore their content. In particular, it will focus on how the material analysis of an inscription can be strengthened by supporting evidence provided by census returns, military records and other archival documents. Conducting such detailed, multi-layered analyses enable the stories of many working-class individuals who have been forgotten by history to be pieced together and retold to a new generation of learners.
Dr Lauren Alex O’Hagan, Research Associate, Cardiff University